No Knitter Is An Island


It’s a warm end of summer day here in western Massachusetts with just a hint of chill in the morning air, and I am trying to work on some hat and cowl patterns for fall release. One of the cats has been sick and in and out of the hospital (stress! stress! stress!) but at the moment she’s home and doing well, so I’ve got her in her usual spot by my side as I play with an idea for a new cowl, knitting away at some slip stitch color work in 2 gorgeous colors of Malabrigo Merino Worsted, Azul Bolito and Frank Ochre – totally swoonworthy. Check it out:


Yummy, right?

How lucky I feel most days, that life has allowed me to spend my days with cats by my side and beautiful yarn flowing through my hands. Designing knitting patterns, or any other creative/artistic pursuit, gives us makers great freedom and room for creativity that can be lacking in more traditional work situations. We produce things that come from our hearts and our heads and our hands, and there can be an enormous satisfaction at the end of a productive day. My father was an artist – first a photographer and later a sculptor and print maker – and I have a million memories of him in his darkroom or studio, creating, working, thinking, sketching out ideas. I remember him showing me how he did what he did, and sharing techniques with me; encouraging me to find my vision, play with colors, hone my skills. So this life I am leading has a familiarity for me.

My father, Sheldon Merritt Machlin, in the swing he made for me in his studio 1966

My father, Sheldon Merritt Machlin, in the swing he made for me in his studio 1966

But there is a downside to this freedom to create, and something is definitely lost that is gained when people work in a group, on a team, or in an office. That downside is the isolation that many of us feel, working alone at our desks or in our studios. I am luckier than some in that my grown daughter works with me, so I have someone to turn to most days, and say “What do you think of this?” or “Which color combination do you like best?” But many (most?) of the people in my profession work alone, which is perhaps why we work so hard to create communities, like those on Ravelry or elsewhere, where we can get together with our peers or with our friends, fans and customers, to exchange ideas and get inspired, to share our successes or our stumbling blocks.

Interacting with others is always very inspiring to me, hearing what people knitting my patterns think, what they love and don’t love, and what kind of patterns they wish I had available. And I cannot even begin to say how valuable and inspiring I find interaction with my fellow designers. I come away from every conversation with them with new thoughts and ideas, my heart filled with camaraderie and my sketchbook full of new designs.

I belong to a group of designers from all over the world who I interact with online every day, and there are no words for how much I love them, or how much inspiration I get from them. I also spend a lot of time on Ravelry, both with my designer peers and with other people I just enjoy hanging out with. Community inspires creativity, whether you are designing knitting patterns or knitting them.

This yearning for community is, at least for me, at the core of creativity, whether your creativity takes the form of designing, of making things that others design, or both. That’s why knit nights are so popular. That’s why so many of us blog, send newsletters, and enjoy the feedback we get from those of you out there reading and knitting; it’s why we spend time on Facebook, Twitter, Instgram and other social media sites. John Donne said “No man is an island…” and it’s true: creativity and inspiration are sparked by interacting with others and it is just as important to what I do as are the yarn and needles I create with. In fact perhaps in some ways it is even more important. The interaction is inspiring, and the lack of it can be the toughest part of doing what we do in isolation.

So let me hear from you! If you are a knitter tell me what you like to knit or wish you could find a pattern for. Comment below, share this blog post with others, or subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here, and then hit reply on it and let me know what you think. Follow me on Instagram , Pinterest, or Twitter, or join my Facebook group. Let me know if a ninaknits Ravelry group would be something you would enjoy. If you’re a fellow designer come chat in the Designers group or the Budding Designers group on Ravelry, write and say hello. Tell me what you would like to read in a blog post, or newsletter article. Keep in touch, with me and with each other!

Hearing from you makes me better at what I do.



4 responses to “No Knitter Is An Island

  1. That photo of your father is awesome!

  2. Isn’t it great? I love it too, one of my favorite photos of him.

  3. giancarlo binelli

    Hi, I have heard that your father took a lot of photos of Sardinia, my island years ago? Is this true? I’d love to have the opportunity to know something more about him. Please let me know, best regards, Prof. Giancarlo Binelli Cagliari Sardinia, Italy.

  4. He did indeed. He and my mother spent time in Sardinia in the mid fifties, and took hundreds of photos, an entire photo journalistic story. You can see a handful of them online by doing a google image search on “Sheldon Merritt Machlin Sardinia photos”. The most that can be seen in one place would be the portfolio he had of them in US Camera Annual 1957 – it’s only 10 pages of photos out of the hundreds taken, but the most collected in one published source. If there is anything more specific that you wish to know please let me know. It’s funny you mentioning this now; my mother was just telling me a story from that trip the other day.

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